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Novi man's loved ones found dead underneath rubble days after earthquake in Turkey

Novi man's loved ones found dead underneath rubble days after earthquake in Turkey
Novi man's loved ones found dead underneath rubble days after earthquake in Turkey 02:41

NOVI, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - From text messages to phone calls, the last 48 hours for Novi resident Ersagun Atilgan, 47, has sent him in whirl of emotion.

"It happens once in 100 years, back-to-back, in the worst time possible when people are sleeping and it's winter time," Atilgan said

On Monday, Atilgan left an interview with CBS News Detroit hoping loved ones buried underneath the rubble in his homeland of Turkey would be found alive. But after receiving a text in his family WhatsApp group chat Tuesday morning, Atilgan was notified that his cousin and his wife were found dead.

"My cousin, he was like big brother to me," Atilgan said.

Fresh off a vacation from Turkey three weeks ago, Atilgan says he never thought that would be the last time he would say goodbye to some of his loved ones.

"Saying goodbye is always difficult for me and that is why I keep telling myself it is not a goodbye, I will see him next time. You always think about, Ok I will see them next time. But in this case, there is no next time," Atilgan said.

Not for him, his two children or his cousin's two kids in college who have now lost both of their parents.

"Of course you are super sad for the people who have passed away, you want to keep their memories but on the other side, you need to focus on who survived," Atilgan said.

Despite being far from his homeland, he says his fight will continue.

"There is an organization, they have been collecting and directly helping them. Natural disaster like this, it kills anybody. Little kids, older, younger, any religion, any gender. Disasters don't discriminate anybody," Atilgan said.

But if he had one message to those who have, Atilgan wants folks to remember this.

"We are just all humans. We are just one world. And once in a while, the world shows who is the boss. People think they have power but the Earth has it's way of showing us who is in control. The Lord is in control," Atilgan says.

And while he cannot control when he can say goodbye to his loved ones, if he could, this is what he would say.

"For sure I would tell him, I love them. Thanks for being a great big brother and now I will do the same for his kids. Take care of them. That's all I can do," Atilgan said while holding back tears.

For more information or to donate on disaster relief programs for Turkey, folks are encouraged to visit

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